International research teams drilled cores from the Greenland ice sheet in the 1980s and 1990s. The cores let the researchers peer back almost 250,000 years through Earth’s climates. They discovered that not only can rapid warming happen, but that it has happened a lot. In the last 80,000 years, the climate rapidly warmed more than 20 times – and did so in a matter of decades!
“It’s an important reminder of how ‘tippy’ things can be,” says Jessica Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
And tippy they are.
For the last 20 years, Chicago was believed to be a “climate haven” – a city shielded from the throes of climate change. What we failed to grasp is that the climate runs on a world-wide scale – everything is impacted, even if we don’t quite know how.
Chicago, seemingly protected from the rising seas and uncontrollable wildfires on the coasts, actually sits in the jaws of the shark. Cradled by Lake Michigan, the rising temperatures caused by climate change have transformed our steady, predictable relationship with water.
Warmer air increases both evaporation and precipitation, creating a warmer and wetter climate spiked by suffocating drought and massive swings in the Lake Michigan water level. And we never quite know where we – or the water – will be.
The “once-in-a-century” floods will continue in the chaotic spurts to which they’ve become accustomed. The shores of Lake Michigan will flood, wreaking a special kind of havoc on South Side neighborhoods. Then the Lake will pull back, seized by a drought inspired by the chorus of Chicago Supercell.
Welcome to the new, warmer, wetter Chicago. Yet, by working together and tackling issues on a hyper-local scale, we can manage the unavoidable, and tell the most unmanageable impacts to come again another day (or millennia).